With 1,142 cases documented by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency between January and June 2018, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) remain major protection concerns in the northeast region of Nigeria, particularly in the Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.
on SGBV covering the period of January to June 2018, which focuses mainly on the Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, shows that socio-cultural constraints and inaccessibility to certain areas make it difficult to determine the actual scale of SGBV among internally displaced women, girls, men, and boys, as well as returnees in the northeast, as the conflict persists.
"Scaling up efforts to prevent and respond to reports to prevent cases of abuse and address protection needs for survivors remains a priority for UNHCR. Joint efforts continue on the ground with other humanitarian actors to provide support to the millions of people affected by the ongoing tragic insurgency," said Antonio Jose Canhandula, UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS.
The current security situation and the activities of the military to contain the wave of attacks by non-state armed groups in the area result in poor coverage of specialized services, poor data collection, and inadequate individual case management in some locations. The situation is further compounded by a drastic reduction of the financial resources of most aid agencies.
UNHCR seeks, as part of its Global Strategic Objectives, to mitigate SGBV and improve the quality of the services it renders to affected communities. Consequently, since the beginning of this year, the Agency, in partnership with other national and international organizations, has sought to combat SGBV by way of identification, response, and prevention.
Through regular protection monitoring, focus group discussions, and vulnerability screenings, UNHCR and partners have been able to identify and report cases of rape, early and forced marriages, undesired pregnancy, sexual exploitation, physical assault, and denial of resources. Those actions are perpetrated not only on civilians before they can flee to safer areas but also in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) or in countries of asylum, as well as during captivity for those abducted.
Under its "access to justice" project, the Office, together with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), also filed cases of SGBV in mobile courts across Borno and Adamawa States for judgment.
UNHCR, through its partners on the ground, continues to carry out door-to-door sensitization on SGBV, documents cases, and provides individual case-management services, including the referral of identified female survivors of rape and early or forced marriages to a safe space for care.
, UNHCR calls for more action against child marriage in the northeast, advocating that governments and the state assemblies pass laws that ensure the protection of all children. Religious and traditional rulers' commitment in the process would also contribute in improving the protection of young girls.
Further, humanitarian actors are urged to continue extending livelihood support to the most affected people as an alternative survival package, while equally providing opportunities for the economic empowerment of women and girls. Finally, UNHCR recommends targeted support training of SEA trainers for the military, as well as the promotion of alternative energy sources, such as briquettes, stoves, and solar lamps, for women and girls in the most affected areas.